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I'm planning to remove a "popcorn" ceiling and submitted a ceiling sample to the labs for asbestos testing. Here are the results:

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It looks to me like the labs didn't detect any asbestos but I'm not sure what exactly Vermiculite is and if it's safe to remove myself. Any thoughts? Are there any special removal instructions for Vermiculite?

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Wikipedia article includes section on controversy over health risks: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermiculite – Doresoom Sep 16 '10 at 1:27
Heard story of vermiculite mining on NPR just yesterday, 16 Jan 2016. Vermiculite is the most toxic form of asbestos. People in the town near mine on on oxygen tanks in their 40's. Woman who discovered this gave a TED talk on the subject. In florida, banks will not finance any home with vermiculite ceilings (or aluminum wiring). – user47935 Jan 17 at 20:42
Depending on your jurisdiction, you could probably legally remove it yourself if you are the owner and occupant, even if it were asbestos containing. – Jonathan Walters Jan 17 at 20:59
Vermiculite, by the way, is puffed mica, and pretty decent insulation, also used horticulturally as a part of potting mixes, etc. Other than some of it being contaminated with asbestos due to the makeup of the place where the mica was mined, there's nothing particularly worrisome about it. – Ecnerwal Jan 18 at 1:35
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Vermiculite on its own poses no health risk, and can be removed without concern. However, in many cases, mined vermiculite can contain traces of Asbestos, and so its removal is not recommended without an asbestos test. I would, as Scott suggests, call the testing company, and make sure that since no asbestos fibers were found, this indicates that the vermiculite used was asbestos free. If that is the case, you are good to go (that being said- wear a mask when you strip the popcorn ceilings, or you'll be coughing and hacking a lot- that dust is nasty).

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Thanks Mark. As per advice from Scott, I contacted the labs (VP of lab actually) and verified that the Vermiculite is "pure" without any traces of asbestos. I still plan to test again prior to removing the ceiling but at least I feel a lot better now. I'm getting an early preview of the "joys" of being a home owner! =D – Mike B Sep 16 '10 at 5:15
No problem Mike. I had a thought this morning- IIRC the house you are looking at is from the 60s. Asbestos-based popcorn ceilings were pretty much the norm in the 50s, on into the early 80s. I would suggest testing samples from 3 or 4 locations around the house, to make sure that you have your bases covered. There is a distinct possibility that at some point some repair or renovation was done, and new, non-asbestos popcorn was used, but other original portions of the ceiling contain asbestos popcorn. If you do this, make sure you bag, label, and test each sample individually. – MarkD Sep 16 '10 at 16:02
Also, if you do decide to get several samples taken, rather than going with the kit/specified lab at ~$40/sample (after buying the kit), I would suggest going with EMLab P&K (www.emlabpk.com). Last fall, they tested 4 samples for me, with a total of 6 layers, for around $45.00. Just double bag your samples in zip-top baggies, label them, fill out the form, and send it in. Easy as pie (and they email the results to you). – MarkD Sep 16 '10 at 16:10
@markd As always, GREAT info. Just out of curiosity, what was the turn around time for that? – Mike B Sep 16 '10 at 16:27
I sent the samples via priority mail- took 2 days, then it took perhaps 2 or 3 business days to have them tested, and they emailed me the results right away. I think I sent the stuff on a friday, and had the results the following Wed or so. – MarkD Sep 16 '10 at 16:46

I'd recommend calling the company who did the testing and ask them for clarification. I'm not sure if the Vermiculite itself poses any health hazards. I did read that it's non-toxic but I'm not sure what happens when you disturb it to remove it. I think in this case it's probably best to ask the professionals.

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Thanks Scott, I'll do that. – Mike B Sep 15 '10 at 15:10

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